Former Chargers QB found dead in backseat of car

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SAN DIEGO — A Petaluma man found dead in the backseat of his car over the weekend has been identified as former San Diego Chargers backup quarterback Jesse Freitas.

The 63-year-old Freitas, who played 13 games for the Chargers in 1974 and 1975 as a backup to Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, was found dead late Sunday afternoon, according to The Press Democrat. He was fully clothed and laying as if he was taking a nap and no foul play was suspected, Petaluma police Lt. Dan Fish told the newspaper.

The official cause of death was pending.

Fish said Freitas had an appointment to meet with a real estate agent in the area that day and likely laid down to rest while waiting for that appointment.

Freitas played for San Diego State before joining the Chargers, and threw 21 touchdowns for the university during the 1973 season. He was drafted by the Chargers the next year but saw little playing time.

After retiring from football, Freitas struggled with mental illness, his family told The Press Democrat. He recently spent time in a state mental hospital after committing arson in Santa Rosa and was released from the hospital last year.

At the suggestion of the Sonoma County coroner’s forensic pathologist, his brain will be studied to see whether he suffered from traumatic shock that has been linked to football injuries, his younger brother, James Freitas of Rancho Penasquitos, told the newspaper.

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